This is a winter painting whose origins however were an autumnal walk along Withins Way, the path that leads from Hale Village to the ancient fording place on the Mersey, at the river’s southern narrows where the county of Lancashire tentatively meets Cheshire at Runcorn.

Rather than risk the crossing, one must of course now turn south west and face the rising landscape, and setting sun.

Phos Hilaron - Hail Joyful Light: a painting by J A Elcock (2018)
Phos Hilaron (2018)

Here perhaps would have been be an apposite time to sing the evening hymn known by the early Greeks, the Phos Hilaron which would accompany the lighting of lamps as the great lamp of the sun itself dips below the horizon.

The path to the left that bends towards the light scuds along the side of the rutted field and drifts over a ridge whose asymmetry is so subtle.. and so wonderful for the artist.

And in the manner of the pilgrim, the field features a hidden scattering of crosses which mark the way, and which I always had in mind for this work. Famously, there are examples at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem dating some seven centuries after this particular song of praise.

Withins is probably an old English derivation of willow which is also related to withy, relating it neatly to another wonderful song.

Oil on canvas 76x51cm


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